Well into my job publishing a newsletter for the Greater London Association of Disabled People, a volunteer, Lottie came into the office. It turned out that, like me she had MS; she seemed to share my level of mobility. She was a pretty young Afro-Caribbean woman – always ready with a joke about our situation: “What was I doing the last time ? Of course it wasn’t the very last time. Here I am again!” She wanted to get involved with journalism, and helped on the newsletter.
We were working on a protoacted story brought to us by a mother who could not get her depressed daughter’s doctor to prescribe medication for the girl, Emma. We agreed that she should try to contact Emma. “I know the kind of thing” Lottie said, “maybe this girl wants to make her own decisions for herself. This is an eighteen-year-old after all. Sounds like she’s being patronised.” So Lottie went as an official GLAD volunteer to see Emma.
Lottie missed a week every now and then. She told me she was periodically admitted to hospital for steroid treatment to stem relapses. After one long absence, I asked our volunteer programme manager where she was. “Hadn’t you heard? I’m sorry”, she said. “She died of a heart attack”.
I couldn’t help wondering whether her heart just could not withstand the shocks of coming on and off high doses of steroids. The funeral was a few days later, in Hackney. Friends and family had been delivered a shock too. A vibrant, funny young woman had suddenly left them. “But”, I reflected, “at least she made us happier”. Some time afterwards I heard that Emma had left home. Maybe that was another of Lottie’s legacies.